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Family-to-Family Education Program

Family-to-Family is a free 8-week course for family caregivers of individuals with severe mental illnesses that discusses the clinical treatment of these illnesses and teaches the knowledge and skills that family members need to cope effectively. Family-to-Family offers resources, insights, coping skills, and genuine support for families. Our volunteer teachers equip the class participants with the knowledge they need to navigate the mental health system.

The programs are taught by family members; people who have lived the journey and can relate on a personal level to those seeking knowledge and comfort. These volunteers are trained by NAMI Mass according to the best practices instituted by NAMI National. The highest standards are maintained by this practice and are governed by the oversight of each program’s Steering Committee and the Education Committee.

If you’re interested in taking a course, View our Calendar or contact one of the teachers listed to get more details.

*NOTE: if the current course is Closed/Full, please contact us at 617-984-0527 to inquire about future courses.

Course in Cambridge
The 8 -week course will meet on Thursdays beginning on March 5th, 2020.
Time: 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Contact Carolyn at or Elizabeth at

NAMI Family-to-Family: Evidence Meets Experience By Ken Duckworth, M.D., NAMI Medical Director summarizes the findings of a randomized study conducted of the Peer-taught Family to Family Education Program which states there’s evidence that Family to Family is effective for enhancing coping and empowerment of families of persons with mental illness (Psychiatric Services 62:591–597, 2011) Outcomes of a Randomized Study of a Peer-Taught Family-to-Family Education Program for Mental Illness (PDF). NAMI Family-to-Family: Evidence Meets Experience By Ken Duckworth, M.D., NAMI Medical Director summarizes the findings

NAMI Family-to-Family Education Curriculum

 Class 1: Introduction: Special features of the course; learning about the normative stages of emotional reactions to the trauma of mental illness; our belief system and principles; your goals for your family member with mental illness; understanding illness symptoms as a “double-edged sword.”

Class 2: Schizophrenia, Major Depression, Mania, Schizoaffective Disorder: Diagnostic criteria; characteristic features of psychotic illnesses; questions and answers about getting through the critical periods in mental illness; keeping a Crisis File.

Class 3: Mood Disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Dual Diagnosis: Types and sub-types of Depression and Bipolar Disorder; diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality, Panic Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; Post-traumatic Stress Disorder; Co-occurring brain and addictive disorders; telling our stories.

Class 4: Basics About the Brain: Functions of key brain areas; research on functional and structural brain abnormalities in the major mental illnesses; genetic revolution in biological psychiatry; genetic transmission of major mental illnesses; infectious and neuro-developmental “second hits” which may cause mental illness; the biology of recovery; consumer stages of recovery from brain disorders.

Class 5: Problem Solving Skills Workshop: How to define a problem; sharing our problem statements; solving the problem; setting limits.

Class 6: Medication Review: How medications work; basic psychopharmacology of the mood disorders; anxiety disorders and schizophrenia; medication side effects; key treatment issues; stages of adherence to medications; early warning signs of relapse.

Class 7: Inside Mental Illness: Understanding the subjective experience of coping with a brain disorder; problems in maintaining self-esteem and positive identity; gaining empathy for the psychological struggle to protect one’s integrity in mental illness.

Class 8: Communication Skills Workshop: How illness interferes with the capacity to communicate; learning to be clear; how to respond when the topic is loaded; talking to the person behind the symptoms of mental illness.

Class 9: Self-care: Learning about family burden; sharing in relative groups; handling negative feelings of anger, entrapment, guilt, and grief; how to balance our lives.

Class 10: The Vision and Potential of Recovery: Learning about key principles of rehabilitation and model programs of community support; a first-person account of recovery from a consumer guest speaker.

Class 11: Advocacy: Challenging the power of stigma in our lives; learning how to change the system; meet and hear from people advocating for change.

Class 12: Review, Sharing, and Evaluation: Certification ceremony; Party!

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